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Public Libraries: Community-Based Health Clubs for the Brain

Public Libraries: Community-Based Health Clubs for the Brain

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Article written by Alvaro Fernandez for the May-June 2009 Issue of AgingToday, the Bimonthly Newspaper of the American Society on Aging:

"Public libraries have long offered the public more than books. And now, recent demographic and scientific trends are converging to fundamentally transform the role of libraries in our culture.

Libraries are taking on a new mission: to help promote cognitive health in their communities, potentially using the concept of brain fitness as a framework for library-based lifelong learning, civic engagement, gaming and health promotion initiatives.

... Two new trends are emerging around our public libraries. Libraries now are focusing more on health and wellness promotion in order to engage older adults, and cognitive health, or brain
fitness, is becoming a significant component of that promotion."

---
Reprinted with permission from Aging Today 30:3, May-June 2009. Copyright © 2009. American Society on Aging, San Francisco, California. www.asaging.org.
Article written by Alvaro Fernandez for the May-June 2009 Issue of AgingToday, the Bimonthly Newspaper of the American Society on Aging:

"Public libraries have long offered the public more than books. And now, recent demographic and scientific trends are converging to fundamentally transform the role of libraries in our culture.

Libraries are taking on a new mission: to help promote cognitive health in their communities, potentially using the concept of brain fitness as a framework for library-based lifelong learning, civic engagement, gaming and health promotion initiatives.

... Two new trends are emerging around our public libraries. Libraries now are focusing more on health and wellness promotion in order to engage older adults, and cognitive health, or brain
fitness, is becoming a significant component of that promotion."

---
Reprinted with permission from Aging Today 30:3, May-June 2009. Copyright © 2009. American Society on Aging, San Francisco, California. www.asaging.org.

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Published by: SharpBrains Market Research on Jul 05, 2009
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11/10/2012

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Copyright © 2009 American Society on Aging; all rights reserved.This article may not be duplicated,reprinted or distributed in any form without written permission from the publisher: American Society onAging, 833 Market St., Suite 511, San Francisco,CA 94103-1824; e-mail:
permissions@asaging.org.
Vol. xxx, No. 3 Page 14
May–June
2009ISSN: 1043-1284
www.agingtoday.org
A
GING
 
T
ODAY
v
The Bimonthly Newspaper of the American Society on Aging
Public Libraries:Community-Based HealthClubs for the Brain
By AlvAro FernAndez
Public libraries have long oered the public more than books. And now, recent demographicand scientic trends are converging to undamentally transorm the role o libraries in our cul-ture. Libraries are taking on a new mission: to help promote cognitive health in their communi-ties, potentially using the concept o brain tness as a ramework or library-based lielonglearning, civic engagement, gaming and health promotion initiatives.Last all, I delivered a talk, “The Emerging Brain Fitness Field: Research and Implications,”to the librarians at The New York Public Library (NYPL). This included a “brain
101
” overview(a basic introduction to the brain and brain tness) and discussion o the growing research abouthow liestyle actors contribute to lielong cognitive health. The session, which also discussedhow navigate through the emerging, sometimes conusing, eld o brain tness, was part o NYPL’s rst Health & Wellness Month. This month-long series o lectures or library sta—with topics ranging rom nutrition to stress management and exercise—turned out to be infuen-tial in creating major health events or older adults.
New, eNgagiNg iNitiatives
Two new trends are emerging around our public libraries. Libraries now are ocusing moreon health and wellness promotion in order to engage older adults, and cognitive health, or braintness, is becoming a signicant component o that promotion.U.S. Public Census data illumines why libraries need to cater to an older audience. From theyears
2000
2020
, the number o Americans over age
55
is expected to increase rom under
60
 million to nearly
100
million. This increase is due to expanded longevity and to the baby boom-er generation moving up the population pyramid.Brain health provides a unique opportunity or libraries to engage active baby boomers andelders. Rohit Burman, manager o culture and public broadcasting at MetLie Foundation inNew York, explains, “Last year we identied a growing interest by boomers and seniors onbrain health issues and thought that public libraries, as community and learning hubs, couldplay a major role. We decided to launch, in collaboration with the Dana Alliance or Brain Ini-tiatives and Libraries or the Future, a new iteration o the Fit or Lie program, ocused square-ly on promoting brain tness.This year, the Fit or Lie program is supporting
17
library systems in launching new initia-tives to promote brain health via the ollowing research-based liestyle actors: diet, physicalexercise, intellectual challenge, mental stimulation through new experiences and socialization.
 
Aging Today Volume 30, Number 3 May–June 2009Copyright © 2009 American Society on Aging
 
www.agingtoday.org
Libraries nationwide are using other new programs to promote brain health. One example isthe Lielong Access Libraries Initiative, unded by The Atlantic Philanthropies, which is an all-inclusive way or older adults to improve their brain tness through civic engagement.
the game is ON
Gaming, thanks to the Nintendo Wii, is quickly becoming a major opportunity to oster inter-generational activities. At least
18
o the
89
NYPL locations ordered Wii gaming equipmentand sotware programs in
2008
, or both in-library use and to be checked out. The AmericanLibrary Association celebrated the rst “National Gaming @ Your Library Day” on November
15
,
2008
, encompassing both board and videogames.Brigid Cahalan, an older adult services specialist at NYPL, says that Wii gaming has be-come one o the most popular activities that engages older adults in the libraries. Previously,more traditional computer classes had long been the major attraction. Says Cahalan, “I wewant to become hubs o learning and community activity, we need to oer new types o so-cial activities.” Gaming has turned out to be working well in attracting elders, with librarystas helping to create intergenerational activities and classes where teens teach and interactwith older adults.As libraries engage older adults with innovative lielong learning, civic engagement, gaming,health and wellness promotion programs and events, it appears that brain tness is the glue thatbinds these activities together. This raises an interesting question or librarians and proession-als in the elds o aging and lielong learning to consider: In the uture, could public libraries betransormed into health centers or the mind and brain?
health Clubs fOr the braiN
Marzena Ermler, NYPL coordinator o proessional development, believes that libraries needto “help people understand that libraries are healthy places or them to go. Lielong learning isnot just or advancement, but to stay sharp and healthy as we age.”Pauline Rothstein, coeditor o the American Library Association’s
 Longevity and Libraries:Unexpected Voices
(to be published in late
2009
), recommends that libraries “think o brain t-ness as the new concept that can help integrate diverse activities, identiy additional needed re-sources and explain our value to society. It makes sense to start with specic programming, anduse a new ramework to evaluate a variety o library services.Rothstein believes that libraries need to stop ocusing so much on objects—such as buildings,books and DVDs—and instead ocus on services. They must explore the questions o how theyeducate and how they help the public navigate the escalating avalanche o inormation that dealswith how to keep our brains healthy. This evolution will require libraries to proactively listen tocommunity expectations, and to partner with local organizations, such as senior centers, to meetnew requirements.I libraries were reshaped as health clubs o the brain and the mind, they could become vitalinormation centers and dynamic destinations or brain tness programs, which would providea crucial service to America’s aging population.
v
 Alvaro Fernandez is coounder and CEO o San Francisco-based SharpBrains (
www.sharp-brains.com
), a market research frm covering applications o neuroscience and cognitive sci-ence in education and healthcare. He is coauthor o The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitnessand author o 
The State o the Brain Fitness Sotware Market 2009
.
Books on the Brain
The ollowing books are helpul resources in understanding the growing eld o brain tness.
The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness:
18
Interviews with Scientists, Practical Advice, and Product Reviews, to Keep Your Brain Sharp
(Sa Facisc, Caif.: ShapBais, Ic.,
2009
) by Aa Fa a d. ekh Gbg

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